So after exiting the FA Cup at the weekend, we know that we now have 12 games left of our season. 12 games to prepare for, 12 games to play, 12 games to fight for 36 priceless points.
I’m sure everybody would have preferred to be facing the home tie to Everton in the 6th round of the FA Cup, and the possibility of a couple of trips to Wembley after that. The defeat to Arsenal left a bitter taste in the mouth for several reasons, but I sense no disarray amongst the players or the fans. We know how well we played, and the nature of cup competitions is that they are unforgiving and one off day (from the players or the officials) can see a good team drop out.
Some may say that we now have the benefit of being able to focus solely on the league, and the whispers of us being title contenders may even turn into shouts. But with most of the teams around us still in European competitions, I’d like to think that even with the FA Cup, there would have been enough in our tanks to keep up with the pace and continue fighting for those top spots in the league.
What we can take away is the fact that we went to the home of a team that casually brushed us aside a few months ago, and put in the sort of performance that on another day would have seen us score three or four goals. Of course, having beaten them 5-1 at Anfield last week, a lot of eyes were upon us to put in a repeat performance, but most people knew that this would be a tighter affair.
On paper, our toughest away game left is Man Utd in March, but if we go there with the mental toughness we showed at Craven Cottage and the quality we showed at the Emirates, then we can be very confident of taking three points. Home games against Tottenham, Man City and Chelsea may prove vital, but likewise we have no reason to target anything less than nine points with our form at Anfield being as good as it is.
With players returning from injury, we can look forward to the likes of Mamadou Sakho, Glen Johnson, Jose Enrique and Lucas Leiva coming back to add to the squad, and hopefully shore up what has been a thin and leaky defence. Their toughness and experience should prove particularly useful in the away games towards the end of the season against sides that will likely be fighting to avoid relegation.
Managers, coaches and players will constantly say that you can only take things one game at a time, and that the most important thing is to focus one hundred percent on the next fixture. But for Liverpool fans, it’s nice to be able to look at the remaining 12 games we face of the 2013-14 season and not see a single one where we should expect anything less than a win. To follow through and actually achieve that would be another issue entirely, but it goes to show just how much this side has improved and how much belief the team and fans alike have in what we are capable of.
By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)